Saturday, November 21, 2009

The orange jackets take over

The water level in Cockermouth has receded from yesterday and it is now possible to walk along Main Street, at least it is if you are wearing an orange jacket. There is no access to the public yet, understandably, as even from as close as I could get you could see that the street is covered in a couple of inches of probably very slippery mud. The windows of every shop front have been broken by the pressure of water. It will probably be several days before the street is cleaned and buildings made secure and safe to allow public access again. How much longer before shops are dried out, refurbished and trading again? That's anyone's guess.

The river Derwent is still flowing fast and the water level is still only a couple of feet below the top of the arches of Gote Bridge. At the peak it must have been above the bridge level. Part of the stone parapet has been torn away by the force of the water and these large stones lay scattered over the roadway. At least the bridge is still there, unlike the one taking the A597 over the Derwent at Workington, which collapsed early yesterday morning while a police officer was on it, claiming his life.

One span of the modern footbridge linking one of the town's main car parks with the town centre has collapsed, as you can see in the distance in Olga's picture above, though all roads leading to that car park are closed at the moment anyway.

It is possible to get into the town from the south as there is no need to cross the river. The town's main Sainsbury's supermarket is open for business and has plenty of food. But it was unusually quiet for a Saturday, mainly because the only customers were those of us who arrived on foot.

The orange jackets had decided to commandeer all of the town's only other large car park, with the result that shoppers arriving by car had nowhere to park. Whether this was strictly necessary or not is debatable, as they were only occupying a small part of the car park. But an orange jacket confers magical powers of authority, so who could argue?

However, no-one thought to put signs at the outskirts of the town to say "all car parks closed, residents only access" with the result that there was a virtual gridlock of cars coming in by one of the two possible access routes in the hope of getting to the supermarket and finding that all they could do was drive through and out the other one.

Although yesterday we were allowed access to shops in Station Street that were unaffected by the floods, today we were not. There was a ribbon across the street and a couple of police ensuring that nobody but bona fide orange jackets were allowed to pass.

Presumably the bureaucrats, health and safety officers and other functionaries had now arrived on site and decided the public must not be allowed anywhere that people in orange jackets are working. The hardware store, the butcher's, the Co-op supermarket and the post office, all of which we visited yesterday and which the flood waters never reached, are now officially out of bounds. Those businesses that escaped damage by the flood waters are now suffering because of over-zealous officials.
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